Chronology


Hedda and her brother Eduard Lindenberg, c. 1914

August 4, 1910

Born Hedwig Lindenberg on August 4 in Bucharest, Romania, the second child of Simon and Eugenie Lindenberg. As a young child, she is educated in art and languages, reading classic literary texts in German, French, and English, and drawing from art history books of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Titian, and others. At age 8, she begins art lessons at the encouragement of artist M. H. Maxy, who has remarked on her drawing to Hedda's father. Sculptor Frederic Storck becomes her first teacher.

 

1924 – 1926

Introduced to Constructivist and early Surrealist art by friend Victor Brauner. His abstract portrait "Hedei" ("to Hedda") is published in Brauner’s in single-issue, Constructivist/proto-Surrealist magazine 75HP, and featured on his 1924 exhibition invitation. Hedda takes classes in Marcel Janco's studio, attends exhibitions and reads avant-garde publications, such as Contimporanual and La Révolution surrealiste, and later Documents and Minotaure.

 

Hedda Sterne modeling a dress of her own design in Vienna, c. 1931, from the Archives of The Hedda Sterne Foundation, New York

1927 – 1928

Enrolls in summer classes at Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, focusing on ceramics.  In Paris, studies in the ateliers of André Lhote and Fernand Léger, and at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. 

 

1929

Begins studying art history and philosophy at the University of Bucharest.

 

1932

Marries Friederich (Fritz) Stern in October. The couple travel frequently between Bucharest and Paris throughout the decade.  

 

In 1938, the exhbition of Sterne's collages draws the attention of Hans Arp and Peggy Guggenheim

1938

Included in the 11th annual Salon des Surindépendants, where her collages draw the attention of Hans Arp and Peggy Guggenheim.

 

1939

In the spring, included in the Société des Artistes Indépendants' 50th annual Salon des Indépendants in Paris.

In September, leaves France to return to her family in Bucharest in the lead up to World War II.

 

Hedda Sterne's 1941 Romanian Passport from the Archives of The Hedda Sterne Foundation, New York

1940

Fritz Sterne leaves for the U.S. on business, where he will remain. Despite attempts to obtain the visas necessary to join him, Hedda is still in Bucharest when Romania joins axis forces on November 23, 1940.

 

January 1941

Witnesses the Romanian Iron Guard Revolt and Bucharest Pogrom, which begins close to her home on January 21. Renews her efforts to obtain visas for passage to the U.S.

 

October 1941

After months of effort to obtain all necessary permissions for passage to the U.S., and with help from her husband abroad, Hedda travels across war-torn Europe from Bucharest to Lisbon, where she departs for New York on October 17 aboard the SS Excambion.

Exhibition announcement for Hedda Sterne's first solo exhibition in the U.S. at Wakefield Gallery, published in View agazine 1943

 

December 1941

Reunited in the U.S., Fritz and Hedda change their German-sounding last name from Stern to Stafford. Hedda, however, soon begins exhibiting her work as Hedda Sterne, adding an “e” to the end of her former married name.  In this way, she maintains a connection to the name she exhibited under in Europe.  

Establishes a studio on East 50th Street, and becomes close friends with her neighbor, Peggy Guggenheim, and other ex-patriots such as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Piet Mondrian, Frederick Kiesler, Marcel Duchamp, and Andre Breton.

 

1942

Included in her first group exhibition in the U.S., First Papers of Surrealism, at Whitelaw Reid Mansion, New York (October 14 - November 7), curated by Marcel Duchamp and André Breton as a benefit for the Coordinating Council of French Relief Societies. Continues her work in collages, and begins a new series inspired by children's drawings, focusing on memories of her childhood in Romania.

Hedda Sterne and her painting, c. 1943

 

1943

Peggy Guggenheim begins exhibiting Sterne’s work at Art of This Century gallery, in shows such as 31 Women. Meets Betty Parsons, who will become her long-time galleriest. Sterne's first solo exhibition in the U.S. is held at Wakefield Gallery in November.

In February, meets artist and fellow Romanian émigré, Saul Steinberg.  Steinberg is commissioned as an ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve, and soon departs on active duty. They correspond regularly over the following year.

 

1944

In summer 1944, Sterne travels to Reno to finalize her divorce from Stafford. She and Steinberg marry on October 11, 1944 after his return from active duty.

Hedda Sterne and Saul Steinberg in their home studio, c. 1945

 

1945

Solo exhibition held at Mortimer Brandt Gallery, New York.

 

1946

Solo exhibition held at Mortimer Brandt Gallery, New York.  

After becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen on April 29, returns to Europe for the first time since WWII, visiting family and friends in France. She and Steinberg will continue to spend many months at a time in Europe over the next decade to travel and visit their families.

In 1947, begins a series of work based on machines, inspired by the anthropomorphic qualities of farm machinery and urban construction equipment of Paris and New York

 

1947

Solo exhibition held at the newly-established Betty Parsons Gallery, New York.  Sterne is one of 16 artists represented by the gallery at its founding, alongside friends and colleagues such as Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, and Ad Reinhardt. 

Begins a series of work based on machines, inspired by the anthropomorphic qualities of farm machinery seen on a trip to Vermont, and the omni-present construction equipment of the post-war building boom.

 

1948

Solo exhibition held at Betty Parsons Gallery, New York.

“Irascible Group of Advanced Artists Led Fight against Show” in the January 15, 1951 issue of LIFE magazine

 

1950

Two solo exhibitions at Betty Parsons Gallery, New York.  

Named one of the country's best artists under age 36 in March 20 issue of LIFE magazine. (Sterne’s biography with the Betty Parsons gallery and many subsequent publications erroneously list her birth year as 1916, an error she will not correct until she is in her late '90s.)

In April, participates in roundtable discussion at Artists' Sessions at Studio 35, New York. Is one of 28 artists to sign the May 20 open letter to Roland L. Redmond, president of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, protesting the museum’s aesthetically conservative group-exhibition juries.

Roundtable discussion at Artists' Sessions at Studio 35, New York, 1950 | Sterne appears in the bottom left corner, seated between Robert Goodnough and David Hare 

 

1951

An article about the 1950 open letter to the Metropolitan Museum is included in the January 15 issue of LIFE magazine. Sterne is among the 15 artist signatories photographed by Nina Leen for the article. The image is subtitled “Irascible Group of Advanced Artists,” and will become a frequently referenced portrait of New York School painters.  

LIFE magazine publishes the feature "Steinberg and Sterne" in the August 27 issue.

 

1952

Two solo exhibitions held at Gump's Gallery, San Francisco and the Museo de Arte de Sao Paolo, Brazil.

 

1953

Solo exhibition held at Galleria dell' Obelisco, Rome.

"Seven Painters and a Machine" appears in the June issue of Fortune magazine, featuring paintings of Joy Manufacturing Company’s Continuous Miner by Sterne, along with Antonio Frasconi, Matta, Walter Tandy Murch, Ben Shahn, Saul Steinberg, and Rufino Tamayo.

"Steinberg and Sterne" in the August 27, 1951 issue of LIFE magazine

 

1954

Solo exhibition held at Betty Parsons Gallery, New York.

Begins series of paintings based on the roads, bridges, and structures of New York City, and begins using commercial spray paint to express speed and movement.

 

1955

Moderates "The Psychology of Imagery in Abstract Art Today" on November 6, a "Four O’Clock Forum" discussion with artists Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, and Seymour Lipton.

Hedda Sterne photographed in her garden on East 71st Street, New York, c. 1952 | photograph by Evelyn Hofer

 

1956

Sterne's painting New York (1955) is shown at the American Pavilion exhibition of the XXVIII Venice Biennale, "American Artists Paint the City" curated by Katharine Kuh.   

Two solo exhibitions held at Vassar College Art Gallery, Poughkeepsie and Saidenberg Gallery, New York.  

 

Summer 1956

Travels cross-country with Steinberg, driving through the northern mountain states to the West Coast, and through British Columbia to ferry to Alaska. On their return, they drive south through California, across the southwest desert states and into northern Mexico, the southern U.S., and north along the mid-Atlantic coastline. Soon begins a new series of work inspired by the journey, a meditation on the roads and horizons.

Exhibition announcement for Hedda Sterne's solo exhibition at Saidenberg Gallery, 1956, featuring the painting New York, N.Y. 1955 (1955)

 

1957

Solo exhibition held at Betty Parsons Gallery, New York.

 

1958

Solo exhibition held at Betty Parsons Gallery, New York.

In 1956, drives cross-country, and soon begins a new series of work inspired by the journey: a meditation on the roads and horizons

 

1960

Two solo exhibitions held at Galleria dell' Obelisco, Rome, and Betty Parsons Gallery, New York.  

Sterne and Steinberg separate; they will remain close friends and never officially divorce.  

Begins to depart from the gestural abstraction she had explored throughout the 1950s in favor of new challenges and explorations.  Throughout the decade, she will alternate between intricate organic forms in her "Lettuces" and "Baldanders," and her comparatively constricted linear "Vertical Horizontals."

Hedda Sterne photographed by Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1961 | © Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos

 

1961

"The Artist in the Tractor Works" in the July issue of Fortune magazine features seven paintings by Sterne, commissioned by Fortune magazine, of her impressions of tractor parts at John Deere & Co. factories in Illinois.

 

1962

Receives the Guri Seaver Memorial Prize from the Art Institute of Chicago's 65th American Exhibition, for the painting Horizontal No. 2.

 

Hedda Sterne in her studio with paintings from her Vertical-Horizontal series, c. 1963 | Photography by Theodore Brauner

1963

Solo exhibition held at Betty Parsons Gallery, New York.

Awarded a Fulbright fellowship in painting; lives and works in Venice, Italy over the next year and a half, working on the series Vertical-Horizontals.

 

1964

Begins working in ink on paper, creating several new bodies of work exploring organic formations, from swarming insects to lettuce leafs.  From the 1960s forward, drawing will become an integral part of her artistic practice leading to dozens of new series.  

 

1966

Solo exhibition held at Betty Parsons Gallery, New York.

Buys a house in East Hampton, where she will live from May to October until the late 1990s. Begins meditating daily, a practice that becomes important for the rest of her life.

 

In May and June 1967, completes a series of lithographs, "Metaphors and Metamorphoses," at the Tamarind Lithography Workshop in Los Angeles

1967

Awarded fellowship to attend Tamarind Lithography Workshop, Los Angeles. In May and June completes a series of lithographs, "Metaphors and Metamorphoses," which explore the her dual interests of the past decade, the lettuces and horizontals.

 

1968

Two solo exhibitions held at Betty Parsons Gallery, New York, and Benson Gallery, Bridgehampton.

In connection with Katherine Kuh's "Workshop in Looking" project for the New York State Council on the Arts, conducts weekly instructional sessions for schoolteachers in Freeport, NY. 

 

Hedda Sterne's "Everyone" series installed in her home in 1969 | Photograph by Duane Michaels

1969

Begins a series of anonymous portraits inspired by her observation that faces and features vary and repeat.  The series, which she calls "Everyone," is an expansion of her long-running interest in portraits, which in the past she had often made of friends but rarely exhibited.

 

1970

Solo exhibition held at Betty Parsons Gallery, New York.  "Everyone" paintings are exhibited on raw un-stretched canvas, becoming a large-scale installation.

 

Hedda Sterne in her studio with her portrait of Joan Mitchell (1955), 1976 | Photograph by Lillian Bristol

1971

Receives Childe Hassam Purchase Award, American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, New York.

 

1972

Solo exhibition held at Betty Parsons Gallery, New York.

 

1974

Solo exhibition held at Betty Parsons Gallery, New York.

Photograph of Hedda Sterne at an exhibition of her work, c. 1982

 

1975

Two solo exhibitions held at Betty Parsons Gallery, New York, and Lee Ault & Company, New York.

 

1977

First retrospective exhibition mounted at Montclair Art Museum.

In 1980, begins a new, highly mediative body of work that will become one of her longest sustained explorations, focusing on architectural and geometric space, the passage of light, and power of signs and symbols.

 

1980

Begins a new, highly mediative body of work that will become one of her longest sustained explorations, focusing on architectural and geometric space, the passage of light, and power of signs and symbols.

 

1982

Solo exhibition held at CDS Gallery, New York.

 

Photograph of Hedda Sterne's studio by Denise Browne Hare, 1983

1984

Solo exhibition held at CDS Gallery, New York.  

Receives Hassam and Speicher Purchase Fund Award, American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, New York.

 

1985

Second retrospective exhibition mounted at the Queens Museum, New York.

 

1987

Solo exhibition held at CDS Gallery, New York.

Hedda Sterne at her retrospective exhibition at the Queens Museum of Art, 1985.

 

1990

Solo exhibition held at CDS Gallery, New York.

Begins returning to organic forms, expanding the language of form she has developed throughout the 1980s in her "Patters of Thought" series, allowing indications of trees, branches, figures and forms to interrupt strong vertical and horizontal lines.

 

In 1990, begins returning to organic forms, expanding the language of form she has developed throughout the 1980s, allowing organic forms to interrupt strong vertical and horizontal lines.

1993

Solo exhibition held at Philippe Briet Gallery, New York.

 

1995

Solo exhibition held at CDS Gallery, New York.

 

1997

Macular degeneration causes Sterne to cease painting. She soon begins drawing exclusively, creating one of her most prolific bodies of work, drawings influenced and inspired by her changing field of vision.

 

1998

Solo exhibitions at held Bibliothèque Municipale, Ville de Caen, and CDS Gallery, New York.

 

1999

Awarded Chevalier, Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, Ambassade de France aux États Unis, New York.

In the late 1990s, begins drawing exclusively, creating one of her most prolific bodies of work: drawings influenced and inspired by her changing field of vision.

In the late 1990s, begins drawing exclusively, creating one of her most prolific bodies of work: drawings influenced and inspired by her changing field of vision.

 

2000

Solo exhibition held at CDS Gallery, New York.

 

2004

Solo exhibition held at CDS Gallery, New York.

Suffers stroke on December 1.  Makes a remarkable recovery but her eyesight significantly worsens, making it difficult for her to draw.

 

2006

Third retrospective exhibition mounted at Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois, Champaign.

 

Portrait of Hedda Sterne by Barbara Yoshida, 6 February 1992, © Barbara Yoshida

August 4, 2010

Celebrates her centenary at her home in New York surrounded by friends and family.

 

April 8, 2011

Hedda Sterne dies peacefully in her home in New York at age 100.